AUDIO: Tommy Davis (6:42)
“It’s a big difference,” Davis said. “Now I can give all out on every play.”
Davis was credited with two sacks for 24 yards and three quarterback pressures. Both times he sacked Jay Davis it forced the Wolfpack to punt. His first came on the first drive of the game and ended in an 18-yard loss on a 3rd and 6. Davis second sack came in the third quarter on a 3rd and 7 for a six-yard loss.
It’s been quite a jump in production for the Dudley, N.C. senior, who managed just two tackles versus Wisconsin and two assists at Georgia Tech. His slow start to the season had a lot to do with nagging injuries that kept him out for much of spring and preseason practice.
But also, instead of playing approximately 70 snaps per game, he’s now down to about 40 – thanks in large part to the improved play of Kentwan Balmer.
“It helps Balmer get better and let’s Davis stay fresher,” Bunting said during his Tuesday press conference. “We’ve got a nice rotation going there.”
But it’s not like Davis just stormed onto the scene. He's clearly the Tar Heels’ most productive defensive end right now, having started all 12 games last season and led the team with 7.5 tackles for loss.
And if Saturday’s performance was any indication, Davis could be well on his way to making a name for himself if the Tar Heels’ defense continues its stingy play.
“I expected Tommy to have a great senior year,” Bunting said. “My concern was he missed a lot of training camp.”
As the Carolina defense prepares for Utah (3-1, 1-1 MWC), there’s little comfort in knowing ’04 Heisman Trophy candidate Alex Smith is in the NFL and former coach Urban Meyer has gone to Florida.
The Utes’ spread option offense is still intact, with some “added wrinkles” Bunting noticed in scouting the team under new coach Kyle Whittingham.
“We have to be real disciplined this week,” Davis said. “With them, if you’re too aggressive they will hurt you.”
However, there is little chance the Tar Heels are looking past Utah to their Oct. 8 trip to Louisville. Although Carolina hopes to exact some revenge for a 34-0 home loss to the Cardinals, there is also the matter of a record-setting 46-16 rout Carolina suffered in Salt Lake City last year as well.
“We looked like the walking dead after that game,” Bunting said.
Utah rolled up 669 yards and ran 86 plays on the UNC defense, the most yards ever yielded by a Carolina football team.
“That’s the worst I’ve ever felt after a game,” said Davis, who played through the pain of a hip-pointer. “They put up almost 700 yards on us and that made us feel real low. But we’ve got another shot this week and we’ll see what we can do.
“Whoever wasn’t physically hurt was emotionally hurt after that game.”
North Carolina (1-2, 1-1 ACC) will face Utah for only the second time in school history when the two teams kickoff at 1:35 p.m. on Saturday at Kenan Stadium.